A research conceptual laboratory on electrical transport in metals. Results and implications for education

Giuseppe Fera, Marisa Michelini


A wide literature regards learning difficulties relating to electrical circuits. Many researches focus on different aspects of student reasoning on circuits functioning: i) the conceptual differentiation of charge, current, voltage, energy; ii) link between electrostatics and electrodynamics, iii) connection between macroscopic (founded on voltage/current) and microscopic (in terms of particles and interactions) level of description of the processes. Regarding the point (iii) an exploration is missing of spontaneous ideas which play an important role in learning. So, this research has explored the reasoning and models of 10 (N = 11) and 13 (N = 35) years old pupils on microscopic processes that occur in conductor wires. The data discussion indicates that reflection on microscopic processes helps students to overcome local reasoning and to gain a vision of the circuit as a system of interacting elements (systemic reasoning).

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